Every family - and every new couple - must decide on their particular Christmas tradition. To put this boldly, the question is: how will we distribute their holiday resources? Do we buy each other one really nice gift? A handful of smaller gifts? Lots and lots of socks and pens? Here, under the BTB Christmas tree, we go for the middle option; while there may not be a Lexus in the driveway, there are several boxes with lovely bows under our tree. Enjoy - and open them carefully, as we'll want to save the NFC East Championship wrapping paper so we can use it again next year.
Archer points to four things that playoff teams must do well - run the ball and stop the run; play well on the road; be hot at season's end; not turn over the ball - and gives the Cowboys positive reviews in all four categories. Stephen Jones agrees:
"You see it game in and game out if we can control the clock early and keep the defense fresh, then we got a chance because their whole deal is to play hard, play relentless and then they make plays. If we can continue to do that, we have a shot every time we go out there."
Sturm's weekly review of the Cowboys' offense operates largely as a paean to what they have built over the last four years. There is a lot of things about this year's offense, he writes, that are awesome. A taste:
The average NFL team this season has run 201 times on first down, with Jacksonville bringing up the rear in the NFL with 155 such plays. Dallas leads the league with 279. They also lead the league in production at 5.07 yards per rush. They run the most, they pass the least, and their production on the ground is the highest. But, here is the part I bet you don’t know: They also lead the NFL in yards per first-down pass!...
...By the way, on first down, Murray’s production has been down the last couple weeks. For 13 weeks, he averaged an absurd 5.78 yards per carry. The Colts and Eagles did nice jobs on first down, holding him to 95 yards on 33 carries, a pitiful 2.88-yard average. It seems clear that both teams were determined to stop the Cowboys’ run on first down to control the game. And that is where the MVP argument crystallizes a bit for Romo. When holding Murray off the sheet, the team has scored 80 points by unleashing Dez Bryant and the Romo-led aerial attack again. But have they stopped running on first down and started slinging it around? No, they have run more. The powerful, merciless, balanced offense has arrived.
Make sure you hit the link above and read every impassioned word.
The Noble Drummond shares his weekly truckoad of statistical awesomeness, with the magnifying lens directed to third down performance and "toxic events" (turnover + big play differential), two categories that the Cowboys have dominated in recent weeks. Here's KD on the latter of these:
Toxic Events for Dallas has skyrocketed over the last three weeks. Using SportingCharts.com’s measures, Dallas was at +5 entering the Bears game, ranking them 11th in the league. Three games later, Dallas is up to +21, moving them to eighth place overall on the season.
Wondering how the Cowboys have scored just over 41 points a game in the last three wins? Look no further than Toxic differential for your answer...
Helman makes the case that the three Dallas first round O-linemen will be cornerstones for a looooong time:
But even with their first-round pedigree, it seems almost surreal that three such young players could turn the corner so quickly. By putting all three players into the Pro Bowl, the NFL community is essentially acknowledging them among the best at their respective positions – and none of the three has reached his 25th birthday.
As I noted in my recent "by the numbers" piece on the Cowboys win over the Colts, getting the ball to Terrance Williams makes the Cowboys a more diversified offense, and puts good T-Will tape on rival defensive coordinator's laptops. All good. Check it:
He has back to back games with multiple catches for the first time since Weeks 9-10. His 52 yards were the most since he had 69 on Oct. 27 against the Washington Redskins. It was his first multi-touchdown game in 10 games....He has eight touchdown catches on the season, the most by a receiver not named Bryant for the Cowboys since Laurent Robinson had 11 in 2011.
Sabin notes that it's been a year since Romo's back injury ended his 2013 season and then takes it from there:
Back in July, he said that, "Over the course of the next four or five years, you’ll see the best version of me."
The reporters around him scoffed then.
But by Monday, Romo’s bold proclamation had rung true.
"It’s been a really good year," he said immediately after the Cowboys claimed the NFC East title.
Surprising. Remarkable. Fascinating. Impressive. It’s been all of that and more since Dec. 22, 2013.
The Professor pens a piece that concedes that we might just have to credit the Cowboys' maligned Owner/ GM for putting the necessary pieces around Tony Romo:
Over the past couple years, Jones has made commitments to the offense to allow the Cowboys to rise to the proper level for a team with an elite quarterback. Let's get one argument out of the way. I haven't varied on having Romo among my top eight or nine quarterbacks in football. He consistently throws for more than 250 yards a game (a 4,000-yard-per-year level) and annually throws for around 30 touchdowns. The most recent time he completed less than 63 percent of his passes was 2008.
Those are elite numbers.
Yes, John. Yes, they are.
The Broad One's weekly look at the upcoming opponent focuses on WR DeSean Jackson (weapon), RB Alfred Morris (nemesis) and CB Bashaud Breeland (under-the-radar) as players to watch. Here's his take on Breeland:
In studying him at Clemson before the 2014 NFL Draft, I thought his strength was his ability to play as a press man corner. He showed the ability to play with his hands at the line to control the receiver, but he was also fluid enough to put himself in position in the route and maintain position, which he was able to do against these receivers....Of all the corners that Bryant has faced this season, Breeland and Patrick Peterson gave him the most trouble. I don’t know how much Bryant will play on Sunday, but I promise he knows what he is facing now when Breeland lines up across from him.
And finally: doing some belated Christmas shopping for a Cowboys fan? Go here to get some NFC East Championship swag. And wear that shizzle proudly...
Happy holidays, everybody!
You have until kickoff on Sunday to submit your picks, but why let time go a wastin? Here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
As of this morning, we already had 135 votes logged. In early voting, the Cowboys are favored over the Redskins, with 94% of the picks coming in for the Cowboys, while 79% are taking the Giants over the Eagles in other NFC East action.